'Stealth' Measurements of Air Quality Contradict Shale Gas Industry Claims of Safe Air
March 4, 2010
New technology finds huge methane plumes around shale gas drilling and processing facilities
Technology is new arrow in quiver of shale gas impacted communities nationwide
DISH, TX, 3/4 Yesterday a team of environmental scientists presented findings from a novel two day emissions gas detection project showing methane levels as much as 20 times above normal background levels in the air around several counties in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
"These findings raise troubling questions about shale gas industry pollution not only in Texas but for states nationwide where shale gas drilling and production is planned or underway," said Wilma Subra, EARTHWORKS board member, environmental chemist and MacArthur grant recipient.
The results were collected over the past two days by an undercover team driving an unmarked white van around the metroplex to test a new measurement technology that enables drive-by emissions testing on shale gas drilling and pumping facilities -- without leaving the vehicle or slowing down from normal driving speeds.
Methane is a surrogate gas for benzene, xylene and other toxic and carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). As a greenhouse gas that is roughly four-times more potent than CO2, methane is also a significant contributor to the ongoing climate crisis.
The results were presented to an overflow crowd at the DISH town hall where Mayor Calvin Tilman had called a special meeting to discuss the findings. DISH and other metroplex residents are concerned shale gas industry pollution are behind serious health problems in the area.
The sampling team, which included Wilma Subra and environmental testing firm Wolf Eagle Environmental, was able to approach and circle the pumping facilities without detection. Previously, companies that own and operate the shale gas installations had spotted sampling teams and turned off compressor and other production operations that produce emissions gases.
In one area, concentrations of methane from emissions plumes were so high that the instrument manufactured by Picarro Inc. -- reached the higher end of its detection range at 40-50 parts per million. When Subra and Wolf Eagle Environmental CEO Alisa Rich contacted air quality regulators, they learned that the Flower Mound facility had failed to report an emissions event, as required by state and federal law.
"These jaw-dropping results show that the shale gas industry is not to be trusted with public health", said Sharon Wilson, organizer for the Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project. "Texas OGAP and EARTHWORKS are considering ways to bring unannounced emissions detection to other shale gas regions and other mining, digging and drilling facilities -- around the country."
Texas OGAP works with communities statewide to prevent and minimize the impacts caused by energy development. EARTHWORKS has 29,000 members nationwide, and offices in California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Texas and Washington, D.C.
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For more information:
DISH methane emissions information -- authored by Wilma Subra, EARTHWORKS board member
Flower Mound methane emissions mapping -- authored by Alisa Rich, Wolf Eagle Environmental
DISH / Flower Mound findings and technical information on Picarro technology -- authored by Chris Rella, Picarro, Inc.